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Los Angeles' Jail Has The Country's Only 'Gay Wing' For Inmates

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Men's Central Jail. Photo by Matthew Logelin via the LAist Featured Photos Pool on Flickr
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The gay wing of Los Angeles' Men' Central Jail isn't like the rest of the jail: inmates experience less violence and more community. Even straight men want to do their time in the gay wing so often that jailers have developed a series of questions to determine their orientation. An inside look from L.A. Weekly reveals the lives of the 400 or so inmates in KG6, the gay wing of L.A.'s Men's Central Jail. KG6 came about after a lawsuit from the ACLU in 1985 with the intention of protecting gay inmates from abuse and violence. In the U.S., there is only one other jail with a separate area for gay inmates. That would be Old Wayne County Jail in Detroit; however, it's only a small number of cells available to gay or trans inmates, not the community found in KG6.

With all the scandals of inmate abuse at MCJ that have come to light this past year, KG6 is painted as being a kinder, gentler experience. While not entirely free from the occasional dispute or violent incident, KG6's residents seem mostly concerned with friendship, cleanliness and fashion. A transgender inmate who goes by Yah Yah told L.A. Weekly, "For some people, this is their home because a lot of their families have disowned them and shunned them, so we're their family. A lot of people's walks in here have been hard walks."

Some popular activities in KG6 including pole dancing for exercise, fashion shows with repurposed jail uniforms and the Mr. Gay Dorm 9100 pageant—9100 being the room number of the group that puts on the Friday night event.

Some straight inmates occasionally try to get placed in KG6 for a variety of speculated reasons: they want to be safe from gang enemies or they just want a less violent experience than they fear they'll get elsewhere. Some inmates think straight men also try to get in because they are interested in getting to know transgender inmates. For this reason, officers often question incoming inmates to determine whether or not they are truly gay by asking them questions about gay culture.

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Of course, just because the gay wing of MCJ isn't run by gangs and intimidation, it doesn't mean it's fun. It's still jail. Duncan Roy, a British film product and former short-term inmate, said, "A jail is a jail—it's a violent, and desperate, and cold and miserable place. Where there is that terrible cruelty inflicted on everyone, people find ways of dealing with it."

Additionally, it can be hard on transwomen who, once they are incarcerated, aren't provided access to the hormones they had previously been accustomed to taking. Many of the inmates in KG6 are in for drugs of other kinds and have to deal with addiction. One trans inmate who goes by Yah Yah told L.A. Weekly that it is her dream to eventually get out of jail and then to return, but not as an inmate. Rather, she wants to provide support and hope to those struggling with the same issues she once faced.

Since the press time, Yah Yah has been released from prison. Read the complete article here.